Archive for October, 2011


Maiviken Gentoos

October 31, 2011   

The weaners are all over the place. Some sleeping head to toe and others side by side. The younger one (on the right still with a downy black coat) had his/her flip over the older one unfortunately I woke them up taking the photo and didn’t get how really cute it was.

The morning of first call Ali needed to head over to Maiviken to count the gentoo eggs. I headed over with him as you can see the gentoo standing in the back middle of the photo has an egg.

Ali pointed out these stomach linings where were littered around the place. Apparently the Gentoos shed their stomach linings – I am not sure why will look it up and see.

It was quite a low cloud day but cleared up and became stunning later in the day. The lake was almost fully defrosted and Petrel peeked out of the clouds.

Holiday on the Barff

October 29, 2011   

Last week Tommy and I took off on Tuesday for a 3 1/2 day holiday to the Barff Peninsula specifically to go and see the Macaroni Penguin colony at Rookery. We were dropped off at Corral which is a beautiful little bay named that in the early 70’s as this was where some of the Reindeer were corraled to be transported off the Island to Chile. The experiment of taking them off the Island didn’t work and only one female survived the trip. The little hut there has a photocopy of the BAS hut book started in 1975 and it is a very good read. In those days the BAS scientists spent extended periods studying the birds etc on the Peninsula i.e. 7 weeks living in the hut and also hunting the Reindeer to bring fresh meat back to base.

We didn’t stay Corral side on tuesday we just put our boatsuits in the hut and took off up the valley behind which doesn’t have a name but is unofficially called Corral Valley.

The stream that splits in this valley with beautiful waterfalls and in the center a little hillock which we had lunch on the summit of on Thursday surveying the stunning views. The weather through out the trip was dingle it only clagged in on Friday morning when we were being picked up. So we continued up Corral Valley leaving three frozen lakes to the left at the top and headed over a col between Mills (625m) and O’Connor peaks before a steam descent into Rookery Bay in Martin Valley. Named in 1988 after Stephen J. Martin, British Antarctic Survey (BAS) Station Commander, Grytviken, 1980-82. He was the Base Commander when the Argentines invaded South Georgia in 1982.

A ways up from the beach is a Gentoo Colony which they have built on a ridgeline we commented many times on why they would put it so high as they do the commute to the water everyday.

The reindeer were based where our campsite was which is along the penguin highway.

To get out of the mud we put the tent up on a boulder that was well covered with moss and ussock. Tommy’s groin was hurting so I left him to his book, music and a bottle of port after setting up camp and headed around to the Mac colony. Unfortunately the Macs have not come back from sea yet so all that I saw was a large area on the hillside of feathers left over from last season.

All was not wasted as it was a stunning place for seabirds which were in abundance swirling around Rookery and Skua Point’s. Sheathbills, Giant Petrels, Sooty Albatross, Kelp Gulls, Skuas, burrowing Petrels were all nesting I throughly enjoyed the afternoon amoungst the tussock watching them in their daily lives.

We tried to summit O’Connor peak however, neither route we tried took got us to the top (one from the north east and one from the south east). After our first attempt we glissaded from our stopping point down a snow bank above Cobbler’s Cove. The three ridge lines leading to the peak are not passable a some point without ropes etc. The only way up I believe is from the Lake in Martin Valley straight up on the scree. I didn’t have the time to attempt it from this direction so had to make due with a smaller summit on the ridge line to the South of the actual peak. This gave some stunning views of Godthul, Reindeer Valley, Szielasko Ice Cap and Cobbler’s Cove. At 675 m it was mapped by a Norwegian Antarctic Expedition, 1927-28, and named Mount Bryde however, it was remapped in 1929 and named after Midshipman W. P. O’Connor, Royal Navy Reserve, who assisted with the survey.

We spent the afternoon checking out the area around Cobblers enjoying some time on the beach and wading out to the island at the entrance at low tide. A bit chilly! The island was absolutely teaming with fur seals and on the way back across from the Island a large elephant seal bull decided to block our way. As the tide was rising I gently suggested he moved out of the way which with a little bit of bubble blowing at me with his large nose he decided to do. Cobbler’s was charted and named Pleasant Cove by Discovery Investigations personnel in 1929, but that name is not known locally. The South Georgia Survey, 1951–52, reported that this feature is known to whalers and sealers as “Skomaker Hullet” (cobbler’s cove), because it was first entered in thick fog by a Norwegian gunner who had once been a cobbler. An English form of this name has been approved.

On the way back to Corral on thursday from Rookery we left early so the snow would still be firm making it easier to ascend to the col with large rucksacks. We were at the top of the Col by 10:30am so decided Mills peak looked like a stunning view point but not with large rucksacks so the gear was left at the bottom and only a small amount of kit taken up.

Mills peak was named in 1988 for Lieutenant Keith P. Mills, RM, commanding the Royal Marines platoon at King Edward Point at the outset of hostilities between the United Kingdom and Argentina, April 3, 1982. The peak really did have a great view. The fog was in on the ocean side as you can see from the picture. So after the quick summit we moved on down to the small unnamed peak in the middle of Corral Valley for lunch with a view of Nordenskol Glacier.

After getting back to the hut which was surrounded by reindeer there was time to bound up the peak without large rucksacks to the east of the hut. This gave commanding views of Reindeer Valley, Black Peak and in the distance covered by low lying cloud Godthul.

We ate dinner watching a tendril of fog come into Cumberland Bay East reminding me of San Francisco.

Friday morning before the rain came in we headed up the unnamed peak to the North of the hut. I was hoping for views north to Barff Point however, the rock got slippy as it started to rain and our pick up was coming sooner than we expected. We headed down to the beach again to get our boatsuits on and go back to base just as the weather really clagged in. When we stepped off the boats at KEP there were elephant seal weeners all over the place – amazing that in just a few days things change that much 🙂

So a great holiday with lots of wildlife and peaks. Most of the above pictures were taken by Tommy with the exception of the Sooty Albatross picture.

Peaks and Pelagic

October 22, 2011   

Another beautiful day. Tommy, Rob and myself headed out to climb a 500+ m unnamed peak to the North of Hodges that we had been wanting to go up for quite a while now.

We headed up to Deadmans and then swapped to snow shoes heading up Boulder Pass and round the back of the peak to get to the top up a scree slope. In the picture above one of the boulders in Boulder Pass is in the middle of one of the many lakes in the area.

What a stunning viewpoint it was. Views of Nordenskol, Neumayer and Lyell Glaciers, out to sea and base all from this peak. As we had lunch and surveyed the Thatcher Peninsula a snow petrel glided effortlessly around the peak. Unfortunately Tommy strained a groin muscle somehow so we weren’t able to continue to Hodges and back home by a different route.

I stopped in to chat with the climbers on Pelagic Australis (they just did the Shackleton Traverse) as they were washing all their gear at the jetty and had a piece of birthday cake after looking around the boat. It is a well put together expedition yacht as one would expect as it was purpose built for high latitudes sailing. Back in time for a tasty Saturday night dinner and a late night at the bar with the Pelagic crew who came round for after dinner drinks.

Oil Spill Exercise and 365 days

October 21, 2011   

On Friday seven of us on base celebrated our 365th day after leaving the UK to come to South Georgia. Time has flown by. It was a stunning day so Rob let us do scrub out at 2pm and finish work at 3:30.

I headed for the hills and had a great walk up around the small lake above Gull Lake. It was so warm I was completely comfortable in shorts and a hoodie.

Pat and Sarah had taken the day off and had headed for Glacier Col with their skis which was very funny to follow. There were a few times where they skied across grass as the snow is very very patchy after the rain on thursday.

First thing in the morning we did an oil spill exercise in readiness for relief next week as they will be transferring fuel from the JCR into our fuel bunds.

It was a very quick exercise as the fastank was very fast to set up!

Pancake has weaned and was interested in helping out with the hoses that attach to the floating skimmer.

The boom was deployed around the jet boat and afterwards was laid out to dry in the sun.

Pancake was so tired after the exercise he had a long afternoon nap.

I reinstalled the Webasto in Pipit and it works fine after the cleaning of the burn plate of carbon deposits. This one is from Prion which I pulled out and left the heat exchanger and burn plate soaking over the weekend in diesel to get rid of a very large amount of carbon deposits.

Rain and heaters

October 20, 2011   

We picked up the campers on the Greene in the morning and there was quite a swell running. So after getting the gear loaded I had Rob and the campers walk down the beach to the area we had cleared on Monday. The swell was less and it was safer to get passengers aboard.

I pulled the heater off Pipit and stripped it down to the burn plate finding a large amount of carbon deposits which is why it has not been working correctly. After installing it we will test the C02 in the exhaust and if it is running rich we will have to adjust the fuel air mix however, I think this clean has solved the problem.

Gentoo nesting

October 19, 2011   

Ali and I went over to Maiviken to check out the Gentoo colony. It was a very hot day I wore a sleeveless shirt and got a little bit of burnt shoulder! The snow has gone soft and snowshoes is the preferred method of travel.

Gentoos won’t nest on snow so the areas of open tussock were full of nests. Like humans there were a few very industrious penguins making beautifully constructed nests and a few that couldn’t really be bothered. Ali told one penguin off for the sorry excuse for a nest! We had lunch next to the colony and watched them work away. Once all the nests are established Ali will randomly mark 40 of them. 75% day which is the benchmark for the science is when 30 of those 40 randomly marked nests have eggs in them.

There was a very curious skua at the river next to Maiviken hut. He or she tugged at my ring on my finger and my beanie.

We delicatly crossed a few snow bridges over full meltwater streams on the way over. The snow is melting very fast indeed.

Sugartop was in full glory looming in the bright blue sky.

Spring continues

October 16, 2011   

What a stunning saturday. I went for a 90 minute run up around Gull Lake then along Brown flats to the helicopter and back to base (around 10km). It was challenging in several ways – using different muscles to skinning, the earth was liquid from the amount of melt water saturating it and when I got to snow banks the icy crust when I broke through chafed my skin above my trainers causing some bleeding on my shins! However, it was a glorious day and great to be out in my trainers, shorts and tshirt and be almost too hot! Saturday night we had a pizza dinner which was very tasty cooked by Rob followed by a pub quiz which our team came 4th in.

Sunday Rob and I finally made it to Osmic which is a little hill on the north west side of the Morraine Fjord on the Thatcher – around 20km round trip from base. On one side it overlooks the Morraine fjord and the other Hesterslatten. To get there we had to take off our boots and wade across the frigid (snow meltwater) Penguin River. It was a stunning view of Paget and the hanging glacier at the back of Hesterslatten however, a very cold wind picked up so after eating lunch we headed quickly back down. As we made our way through a bank of tussock surrounded by scree we heard the sound of a burrowing petrel. Rob pulled out his sound recorder and took a recording of the sound the petrel made before we made a quick exit to the scree as we didn’t want to risk damaging any of the burrows. A skua circled above waiting to see if it could score a quick snack of the petrels.

Again it was time to wade across Penguin River despite trying to find a better crossing we ended up at the same place. We heard some Sooty Albatross calling from the rocky cliffs overlooking the river at the end of Brown Mountain. While Rob headed up the scree with his sound recording I stayed by the river and watched over 50 skua enjoying bathing in the river.

It was a great scene as now spring is in full swing the place was alive with skuas, kelp gulls, giant petrels, sooty albatross, terns, king penguins, ellie seals, fur seals all getting on with their lives.

Unfortunately I found Rock Sucker’s (Tommy’s name for the starving ellie pup from last weekend) carcass very close to where we had left him. Very sad…

There were a few one year old widges that must have been born here last year on the beach sleeping amongst the tussock. I quite like them when they are small like that still fierce but very puppy like.

When we got back the kitchen smelt of roast lamb which Matt H decided to cook up. The lamb came from the Poncets who have lots of sheep on Beaver Island in the Falklands. They brought it down on the Hans Hansson as a present for base. It was very tasty and a great way to end the weekend.

Winter Ascent of Everson

October 12, 2011   

This morning I courageously left my daypack behind in favour of an alpine ascent of the buildings at KEP – some of the icy slopes to the ridge line were over 2000mm. I had to front point in my rigger boots and armed with my mop and squeegy I was able to quickly climb up the slippery face.

I had to overcome a rather scary looking elephant seal to get to the 100 + windows on base and remove a years worth of dirt. Without my trusty waterproof fleece lined gloves I would surely have succombed to frostbite. I staved off acute mountain sickness by stopping for a brief half hour gulping down a mug of Ribena. Luckily a bucket of vinegar and water made quick work of the windows and I still had some strength to eat a delicous wrap of chicken and salad for lunch.

The Hans Hansen the new vessel owned by Dion Poncet arrived today at KEP. There are only three expedition yachts coming this season including this vessel which looks to me a bit like Little Toot. Remember that cartoon?

Present making…

October 11, 2011   

This morning we had an early boating trip which Matt coxed as it is my maintenance week and his boat driving week. I did the normal weekly checks, finished off the boat suit maintenance and we refueled Prion. As I was refueling (in the rain!) a large male ellie came to investigate the boat unfortunately my camera was not in the right mode and I missed a good picture.

I finished off Mum’s table and it is now packed away in my p box with Dad’s chairs ready to go on the ship in two weeks time.

I am now busy making another present which at the rate it went tonight will take quite a while and will cause considerable hand cramp. This is the diamond cutter that I used in the science labs to cut the glass – it basically works like a tile saw requiring water to wet the blade.

After cutting the glass has to be ground down so the edge is smooth. This is done with wet dry paper and a lot of patience. I got through the movie The Duchess and there is still a lot to do and that is only one glass out of 5!

The rest of the week we are doing base scrub out – joy of joys! This means three days of cleaning. All the cupboards get emptied and resorted ready to receive all the coming years supplies. The carpets will be shampooed, the windows washed inside and out, the freezers defrosted cleaned and restocked the list goes on.

The world outside base moves along with my mother being on the front page of The Times supplement yesterday in an article about flying for Pan Am. At lunch time today we figured out that none of the women on base would have qualified to be a flight attendant in the 1960’s, as we are all the wrong height or weight. I am 9kg or 20lbs overweight but the right height. Sam is slightly too tall and overweight, Katie is slightly too small and overweight and Sarah is the right height but overweight. I don’t think any of us on base could be considered to be fat! They must have hired stick insects – 5’ 8’’ and 135lbs (61kg) is not exactly that healthy definantly not allowing you to have any muscle.

Spring has sprung

October 10, 2011   

In the UK you know spring has sprung because the crocuses are pushing through and the daffodils are blooming. Here in South G we don’t have such beautiful plants so the official start to spring is when the ellies come back and start having pups. Besides the ellies there is a lot more birdlife and the furries are also slowly coming to the shore. After the FPV cast off her lines to take Ali, Katie and Matt to the Bay of Islands for a Albatross survey Tommy and I headed for the hills. It was a stunning day – absolutely beautiful and really hot. We climbed onto Brown Mountain having to relearn what it is like walking on scree. On the back side we had an amazing bum slide down it was so good we climbed back up the slope for another go at it. The snow won’t last much longer in these temperatures.

We had lunch and penguin river and saw that 3 of the 6 chicks had survived the winter. The colony has grown to around 20 adults.

The beachmasters have created harems all along the coast. The largest one we saw had 75 females most with pups.

Katie counted 154 pups along the beach yesterday. We saw that two had died and weren’t fortunate enough to see any births.

We came across a very sad sight – a pup had lost its mother and was so hungry that she/he was suckling on a rock.

We sat and watched for a while and I sat quite close. Next you know the pup decides that my bottom is a good place to get some milk from. It slobbered all over my trousers desperate for some milk and sucked pretty hard. I was heartbroken as even though this is nature it is terrible to think about the poor little pup dying of hunger.